As in many professions, particularly those related to public service, research constantly changes the face of the profession and its approaches. In social work, this is certainly true. In more recent years, many trends have transformed the way that social workers manage their cases and approach the individuals with whom they work.
Trauma and its effects on individuals
In recent years, treatment of those who are victims of trauma has come to the forefront. Not only has there been a focus on those directly affected by specific trauma, such as terrorist incidents, but also on those indirectly affected as a result of today’s high level of media accessibility.
In addition, the growing number of veterans returning to the United States with symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder has also placed an emphasis on learning how to help individuals cope with such conditions.
The increase in accessibility to technology has contributed to an overall globalization of the population, and as a result has led to a demand for social workers to have a greater understanding of various cultures and the international community.
This is particularly important as social workers are often meeting with immigrants or refugees. As a result, higher education institutions have increased the global content within their programs for those intending to become social workers, and will continue to do so. In order to address global issues (i.e. human trafficking) social workers must become increasingly familiar with international environments.
Mental Health/Substance Abuse Availability
Due to legislation that has made access to mental health and substance abuse treatment more accessible and affordable in recent years, social workers must become even more knowledgeable about these issues and how to effectively and efficiently address them. With the legislation has come an increase in individuals seeking these services, therefore the efficient delivery of such services has become crucial.
As with nearly all professions, social media has had a large impact on social work. Social networking has enabled social workers to better reach their clients and to advertise their services. There have been benefits and challenges associated with social media and social work and those issues continue to help professionals grow and change.
Evidence-based practice has grown within the social work community. As a result, it is imperative for social workers to understand how to approach communities and individuals in different ways rather than using the same approach for each population.
Online education in the field of social work has increased greatly in recent years. As a result, more individuals are able to access higher education in order to become social workers. Complications remain, such as execution of internships, but overall the increase in universities offering coursework online for aspiring social workers has been largely positive.
Because of the large number of aging individuals seeking services from social workers, the approach of social workers to the aging population has changed. Now, social workers are taking a categorical approach and studying how to best work with specific groups such as aging immigrants or aging individuals with mental healthcare needs.
The economic downturn has negatively affected a large portion of the population resulting in a greater demand on services from social workers. The ill effects of job loss, home loss, poverty, and stress have necessarily increased the amount of individuals seeking assistance from social workers.
As the public view is such that school violence is increasing, social workers have focused on ways in which to change school settings to reduce the ill effects of bullying. By focusing on target populations (such a LGBT students), and how to create more compassion amongst students for such populations, social workers are attempting to change the school environment to reduce bullying and violence.
In recent years there has been an increase in social workers’ involvement in children’s mental health. Diagnosis of such conditions as ADHD and autism is a large portion of the reason for the increased role of social workers within the realm of children’s mental health.